This past weekend, I was shopping at one of the local grocery emporiums and had paused my cart to obtain an item, when I was rear-ended by another cart enthusiastically pushed by a young male of perhaps five or six years and which struck with a certain amount of force. The cart basket hit my lower back not quite hard enough to bruise anything, but the lower bar slammed into my legs just above the ankles with an impact that could have been painful, if not worse, except for the fact that I wear cowboy boots.

I turned to the young fellow and said sternly, but not loudly, “You need to watch where you’re going, young man.”

At that point, the boy’s father appeared and said to his son, “What do you say?”

He murmured, “I’m sorry.”

Then the father said, “It was an accident.”

Because I didn’t want to make a scene, I said, “These things happen.” Then I turned to the boy and said evenly, “I’m not angry with you, but you do need to be careful.”

What bothered me most about the entire, almost insignificant, incident were the father’s words, and the implication that there was no lack of care or responsibility on his part or on the part of the boy. Six year old boys should not be running full speed pushing grocery carts down an aisle, especially with their three or four year old sibling in the basket seat. If he’d run into one of the very old shoppers, they could have been injured. If he’d run the cart full speed into one of the adjoining freezer cases, his sibling could have been hurt.

But the father said nothing to his son, and they continued shopping, as if nothing had happened.

One of the lessons I attempted to impart to my children many long years ago was that while they might make a mistake and accidentally hurt someone, the fact that it was an “accident” didn’t change the fact that what they did hurt someone. It didn’t excuse their carelessness.

My wife the professor has come across the same lack of understanding with college students, the idea that because they didn’t intend to do harm, that because it was “an accident,” they bore diminished or no responsibility for adverse consequences.

And I just witnessed where it all starts.

5 thoughts on “Accident?”

  1. Tom says:

    I am old enough to get insurance credit by attending “driving updates”. The elderly instructors always remind the class “there are no car accidents; just car crashes”.

  2. Ryan Jackson says:

    The only thing I can really offer is that the situation might have dictated a quieter response.

    I can attest to being the father of a son who has immense trouble listening, calming down and focusing. My wife and I spent years trying to work with him with discipline, explanation of the rules, punishment for wrong-doing. It had little to no effect.

    Some research pointed out that sometimes kids like this are so beat down by their mistakes and the criticism they get (from everywhere, not just parents) that you’ll get nowhere if you don’t build their self esteem first.

    It seems illogical and would have been for say myself as a child. But it’s working with my son. He’s getting more confident and with that confidence is a willingness to focus on what he needs to be doing.

    So the parent not reprimanding their child for hitting you MAY very well be lazy parenting. But it may also be that they’re at a stage where shaming him publicly will do nothing to help improve his behavior and may actively hinder it.

    1. Frankly, I was more concerned that neither parent was within twenty feet of the cart which held a two or three year old and was being navigated far too swiftly by the six year old.

  3. KJ Benham says:

    I see more and more denial of responsibility. I think the problem lies in the confusion in some people’s minds between intentionality and responsibility. The father (and many others) mistakenly believe that because there was no ill intent, there is no responsibility or greatly diminished responsibility. That belief is in error. When we remove Duty from the equation, we get a blunting of the moral sense. Duty is more than responsibility for actions or omissions; it is the active pursuit of the good we owe one another. That is one way to describe a civilized society.. This father harmed his son by not correcting his behavior and missed an opportunity to teach the duty the child owes to others. Barbarism is the eventual result.

    1. Wine Guy says:

      I like this reply. I could not have put it this succinctly. Duty is a word that we do not hear much of these days, except when people use it as a weapon, dismissively… or as an excuse.

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